Federal employees union give their take on the president’s new vaccine guidance

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  • Federal employee unions are responding to President Biden’s new vaccine guidance. The American Federation of Government Employees has demanded to negotiate the conditions of the new requirement to self-attest or undergo regular testing for COVID. AFGE is encouraging its members to get vaccinated regardless. AFGE says it expects to bargain with the Biden administration before agencies implement the new requirements. Meanwhile, the National Treasury Employees Union has requested agencies pause their plans to bring federal workers back. NTEU says putting reentry plans on hold would ease employee anxiety.
  • Two more agencies are mandating vaccines for some of their employees. Healthcare workers in the departments of Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services must receive the COVID-19 vaccine if they come in close content with patients. VA expanded this requirement to now include workers under the Hybrid Title 38 and Title 5 VA health care personnel — such as psychologists, pharmacists, social workers, nursing assistants, physical therapists, and others. This is an expansion of a requirement for doctors, nurses, and others that VA issued in late July. Meanwhile, HHS is requiring 25,000 workers at NIH, the Indian Health Service, and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps to get vaccinated in short order. (Federal News Network)
  • The Public Buildings Service missed opportunities to make its contract awards more competitive in the national capital region, according to a watchdog report. The General Services Administration’s inspector general says PBS failed to meet competitive contracting goals for fiscal 2017 and 2018. The IG recommends agency leadership review decisions to forego competition on contracts. PBS agrees with the IG’s recommendations, adding that competition rates were higher in 2019 and 2020.
  • The Space Force’s affiliated arm of AFWERX is officially launching next week. SpaceWERX is in charge of expanding the military industrial base by partnering with top innovators and academia. The organization will also leverage commercial investment and rapidly pursue space technologies. SpaceWERX will be headquartered in Los Angeles.
  • The Air Force is embarking on another mission to find its best gamers. The Air Force’s Gaming League is back for another season. The service is holding a competition to find the best video game players for three additional games, Call of Duty: War Zone, Apex Legends, and Super Smash Brothers Ultimate. Those titles will join the games from last year, which included Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, League of Legends, and Rocket League. The Air Force says the competitions foster resiliency and retention by bringing together airmen. This year veterans and service members who have been wounded are also eligible to play.
  • Cloud computing helps agencies go paperless, analyze large amounts of data, and offload legacy IT systems. For the Air Force that meant shifting from the “ultimate legacy system” — paper forms — to a digital database for things like flight records, which follow airmen all through their careers. The Labor Department, likewise, moved it’s paper-heavy foreign labor certification process to the cloud to streamline reviews for those worker applications. But not to get carried away, the Government Accountability Office advises agencies think hard about their cloud architecture, and maybe talk to others who have already done it — especially their mistakes. (Federal News Network)
  • Federal employee retirements saw a big jump from June to July, and it has led to a growing backlog of claims. A recent report from the Office of Personnel Management showed a 22% increase in retirement claims from June to July, and a 30% increase compared to last year. As a result, the backlog of claims shot up by 3,000, reversing the downward trend seen in recent months. The average processing time for claims in July was 91 days — the highest it’s been all year. (Federal News Network)
  • Long-time telecommunications expert Jim Russo is retiring after more than 17 years in government and 41 years in the federal sector. Russo, the branch chief of the Solutions Development Technical Account Management office within GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, is leaving as of Aug. 27. Russo spent his entire federal career with GSA, most recently as the technical director for the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions, or EIS program. In that role, he helped implement cybersecurity requirements under TIC 3.0. Russo says after some time off, he plans to remain part of the federal technology sector.
  • The Cyberspace Solarium Commission, a year after issuing its final recommendations to Congress, is getting results from lawmakers. The commission finds more than a third of its original 82 recommendations have been met, or are on the verge of being met. That includes several recommendations included in the $1T infrastructure bill recently passed by the Senate. Commission co-chairman Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) says more work is needed to protect critical infrastructure from cyber threats. “We have to reimagine conflict, and we’ve got a lot of work to do to get the private sector on board, because they’re the target.” (Federal News Network)
  • The road to federal digital transformation is paved with siloed teams, inefficient legacy systems, massive data, and unique customer needs. The Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Veterans Affairs make progress by tackling these challenges head on. OPM will deploy a new human capital dashboard in phases, within the next three to five months. VA wants to use a low-code/no-code platform for in-house software. (Federal News Network)

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